She might be turning 66 next month, but Academy Award winner Susan Sarandon shows no signs of slowing down. This year alone, the actress has already seen four of her films open theatrically (the Duplass Brothers' "Jeff Who Lives at Home," the Sundance indies "Arbitrage" and "Robot & Frank," and the Adam Sandler summer comedy "That's My Boy"). And she still has Tom Tykwer and the Wachowski siblings independently financed epic "Cloud Atlas" set to open by year's end, and two more in early 2013 -- Robert Redford's conspiracy thriller "The Company You Keep," and the all-star comedy "The Big Wedding."
On top of her acting duties, Sarandon has been making headlines of late for something totally unrelated to her day job: ping-pong. Along with co-owners Frack Raharinosy, Andrew Gordon and Jonathan Bricklin, Sarandon is behind SPiN Galactic, a subterranean ping-pong social club that has locations in New York, Milwaukee, and Toronto. They're next set to open one in Los Angeles, with the help of hotelier Andre Balazs, at the Standard Downtown. And in funny bit of meta casting, Sarandon is set to soon start shooting Michael Tully's "Ping-Pong Summer," a coming-of-age story about a Maryland teen with a thing for table tennis.
Indiewire sat down with Sarandon in New York prior to "Arbitrage" opening, to discuss her career, passion for ping-pong, the passing of Tony Scott who directed her in "The Hunger," and her many roles in "Cloud Atlas."
I last saw you in person at Alice Tully Hall, when you payed tribute to your "Hunger" co-star Catherine Deneuve at the Film Society's Chaplin Award Gala, held in her honor. Do you feel a kinship to her given that you two are around the same age and remain as prolific as ever?
I feel kinship with any actress who survives in this business, for any period of time, who started out really young and has survived and not become a drug addict, alcoholic, or bitter. I also think it’s really amazing when a woman doesn’t feel like she has to give up a family or relationships – Catherine’s been with some very interesting people, and has made some amazing mistakes, as have I. So yes, I feel that.
It’s funny because everyone’s been asking me about Tony Scott and of course, that’s the next easy segue – that was a very interesting experience as his first movie [“The Hunger”] and what I thought was amazing, as we were trying to work that out, was how much he listened to the actors even though there wasn’t much time because, at that time, being his first movie, there wasn’t a huge budget. That was a crazy ass experience, but I feel strongly connected to David [Bowie] and Catherine because of that experience.
I remember back when “In the Valley of Elah” came out, many critics singled out your performance for leaving such a lasting impression despite its brevity. Since then, you’ve been doing that a lot -- popping in a slew of features and leaving your mark.
People ask me, "Have you chosen to do smaller parts?" I’m a character actor. I choose things that I haven’t done before; I choose things according to who I’d be working with; I choose things where there’s passion involved in a project, and I want to have fun. Oftentimes, those are supporting roles.
Do I turn down movies that are all about me in order to do supporting parts? No. It certainly is still true that love stories between women my age and somebody are few and far between, and I love those stories – for me, every film is about some kind of a love story. As long as I’m still having fun, and challenged, I will continue to work because I feel alive when I work, and I love the collaboration of trying to make something happen. And, obviously, doing so many little films, I’m not in it for the money. So it is for the fun and to stretch myself, and to submerge myself in all these little microcosms; to work with people that I haven’t worked with before, or people that I have that I really love.
I don’t feel compromised to do a small part as long as it’s something that affects the movie, or has at least one or two flashy scenes. The problem is that sometimes they get you in to get their money and then you see the film and they cut your scene to shreds. And you’re like, "Really? Oh…" So you always have that risk.
Well, you have a killer scene in “Arbitrage" as a high society housewife, althought it does come late in the film.
Yeah, that was fun. That was a fun, fast and furious day for sure. And not easy in a gown, let me just add. I really was happy to be able to get a few cashmere things out of this movie.
Oh, you took some home with you?
Absolutely. Not the gown, but some of the other stuff. It’s very rare that I want to take home any wardrobe in my films, so I was really lucky with this one.
"Abitrage" marks Nicholas Jarecki's narrative debut. What gave you the confidence he could pull it off?
Nick came to me full of passion and a pretty good script that needed a little bit of work a number of years ago. I said, "Well let’s just see who all’s involved and I think maybe a little bit of this needs to happen..." He was doing his homework and seemed to be prepared and cared very much, and why not – it was in New York, and when Richard [Gere] became involved, I thought that was a really good choice.
And he wrote the part for you, or so he says.
So he says. I don’t know if he would have said, if someone else had ended up doing it, but so he says. We had a mutual friend, and that’s how the script came to me, actually. It didn’t even go through the normal channels, and I just kind of waited it out to see. “Robot & Frank” was the same thing, I met with the director - really, really passionate first-time director - and I saw his reel of commercials and things. People always say to me, "How can you take a chance on a first time director?" -- like Ron Shelton for “Bull Durham,” and I say: “It’s not the first film, it’s the second film that’s going to be the problem.” They’ve been dreaming about their first film for years, they’ve got that in their minds. “Igby Goes Down” is another one. Sometimes it doesn’t work out so good, that’s happened to me, I must admit.